By: Javid Ahmad Ahangar
“The worst thing that can happen in a democracy-as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope”.
George Bernard Shaw in one of his beautiful sayings tries to sum-up the meaning of election. To quote Shaw “An election is a moral horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood; a mud bath for every soul concerned in it.” Coming directly to the by-election in our state, it seems Bernard Shah is quite relevant, the elections in Jammu and Kashmir are held right from 1952 i.e. from constituent assembly to current parliamentary one.
People carrying coffin of Ali Muhammad Dagga, a driver who was on election duty when he was hit by stone and later succumbed to his injuries. (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
The rigged and manipulated elections of 1987 become the bedrock for the insurgency in the state and at the same time the people’s non-violent movement from 2008 to present era has shaped the politics in new directions. The political developments in the state from time to time have given shape to new trends like we witnessed in 2016 revolt and the emergence of new militancy. The more recruits and peoples participation in funeral prayers end the fear among the people. There was a time in 90’s when the news of an encounter or crackdown was heard in any area, people would rush to other safe places, but now the brute force and suppression have ended that very fear and now seems people are used to it.
Killings in Kashmir on daily basis have deeply affected the psyche of the people, the prime and living example are the killings in the bi- election in central Kashmir. The trauma of horrible curfews and Killings of 2016 are still haunting the people and may remain in the memories of the people for a pretty long time. Kashmir has rarely seen the democratic way of culture as boasted by their masters in New Delhi. The state from 1947 was always ruled on the under the shadow of a gun instead of democratic ideas and principles. Hillary Clinton one of the liberal voices in USA once remarked that, “The worst thing that can happen in a democracy-as well as in an individual’s life – is to become cynical about the future and lose hope”.
Police and paramilitary personnel chasing protesters (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
The people in Kashmir have lost the hope in the name of so called Indian Democracy. The nature of the state and its institution from all fronts is anti-people and anti-Kashmir, be it legislature, executive and judiciary. All have played their respective role in shaping the dirty politics of the state. The state can’t spread democracy with a barrel of a gun argues the leading intellectual and social scientist Helen Thomas. However in case with Kashmir, in the name of democracy the Indian state has used the gun as a primary source which resulted in thousands of innocent Killings right from 1989.
Benito Mussolini seems quite relevant here when he puts his gorgeous words on democracy, “Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy”.
On Sunday, April 9 in Parliamentary by-elections in Kashmir, mayhem was still to come as the ideals of democracy crushed 8 innocent people and injured dozens. This day will be remembered as one of the bloodiest days in the democratic history of India. Commenting on the Election Day, former CM of the state Omer Abdullah tweeted, “From 26% in 2014 to 6.5% in 2017 who should we blame for the mess Kashmir is in? In another tweet he wrote, “Have contested 6 elections over 20 years & have never seen this level of violence in elections in Kashmir”.
If the PDP led coalition government is responsible for the present mess, then at the same time the leaders of both NC and other parties too are responsible but they too are responsible for present mess in the state. Omer Abdullah perhaps has forgotten the role he played during the mass uprising of 2010, in which hundreds were brutally killed and injured. It would have been a good gesture had he made the forces accountable being the head of the state rather than making commissions and ordering probes without any results. These cases are either hushed up or the files rotten in the government offices. The political speeches of Omar or his father Farooq in support of the stone-pelters and killings are nothing, but it is a game played by every political party as they are all players of a one team playing together least bothering about the good of the people. As we have seen in the past how PDP used to call themselves as “Messiah’s” of the people.
On the other hand the PDP’s Coalition with BJP has not only continued the legacy of previous governments, but it shaped the record of Killing and injuring hundreds and thousands under the aegis of unlawful AFSPA. Minors in hundreds were logged in jails by slapping draconian PSA and forces were giving free hand to deal with the protests. Had the present government made the forces accountable and punish the culprits accordingly, situation would have been totally different but Alas nothing was done from the part of the state government. The central government from New Delhi has always justified the innocent killings as part of their national policy.
File image of empty cartridges (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)
The 2017 by- parliamentary election are supposed to be the lowest in the history of Kashmir under the Indian rule. It is clear when the two main political parties PDP and NC had low key election campaigning and avoided getting so close with the people, because they know the anger of 2016 is very much present. However, the workers were invited to closed doors and secured spaces for political interactions. The policy makers in the union government were expecting 10 percent plus and the optimists never crossed twenty, but the EVMs in the end stunned everyone by staying at 7.14percent. Chief Election officer Shantamanu said that “today was not a good day.”
In conclusion, the low turnout of the masses in the present ongoing by- parliamentary elections has conveyed a clear message to those forces and mainstream political parties that there is death of Indian narrative. The state has entered in a critical stage where New Delhi has lost the battle and false propaganda of blaming Pakistan for every act of violence and protests is no more acceptable to the people of the state. The need of the hour is to read the graffiti on the walls. In the words of Mridu Rai professor of history at Presidency University, “Kashmiris have spoken time and again: “Hum Kya Chahtey? Aazadi.”
(Author is Doctorate fellow at department of political science Aligarh Muslim University. Ideas expressed are his own)